Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
Antiques do more than add character to your home. They can last for hundreds of years and are more than an investment—they’re a way to keep your home (and the planet) healthy.
Made from natural materials and with artisanal techniques, antiques were sustainable before sustainability was even a thing.
From an aesthetic perspective, antiques add a lot of charm and approachability to a space and that’s what we like. From a health standpoint, they’re 100% solid wood, no chemicals, made the old-school way with proper joinery, and they’re not going to fall apart. Plus, you don’t have to worry as much—they can withstand a little wear and tear. They check a lot of boxes, and they’re sustainable too. You don’t think of antiques as disposable. That’s how we should be thinking about everything we buy.
There are 4-5 dealers I buy from over and over again—when you find someone who shares a similar aesthetic, you can feel confident that you’ll love what they have. I personally find it hard to buy something that has a lot of character and that I’ll have emotional attachment to on the internet. My advice is to look for dealers who are close to you, and who you feel have a similar eye. But sometimes you have to go online because there are no other options.
They tend to be better for vintage pieces rather than antiques. I have a pair of chairs that I bought for $80 at a flea market and had them reupholstered. The guy who sold them had no idea what he had—they’re $3,000 chairs. You won’t always get this lucky with finding a hidden gem, but at least you will find pieces that have already off-gassed. So it’s still a better option than buying new.
I consider antiques to be from the 1920s and before. The rule of thumb is 100 years and older is an antique; newer than that would be vintage. Usually vintage pieces are referred to by their time period, like Deco or midcentury.
When you get into real antiques, the dealers know exactly who the furniture maker was, the piece will be stamped with the year and who commissioned it, and they can trace the provenance.
If it’s not the most amazing quality, you can paint it with non-VOC paint. If you want to sand it down and stain it, you can use a low-VOC water-based stain. Traditional furniture used to be maintained with steel wool and beeswax—they didn’t use varnishes or chemicals. That’s a great way to care for furniture today.
Use a non-VOC paint or low-VOC stain to update vintage furniture.